Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

What The Hell Did Penguin Do?

So Penguin rolled out 2 weeks ago, I posted some early thoughts over on the Branded3 blog, and since then I have been trying to work out exactly what Penguin actually did, because being 100% honest, there are a lot of sites I expected to get hit that didn’t get touched!

What the hell did penguin do? By the way, if anyone genuinely knows please say so in the comments.

A few of things we did see were 1) a definitive boost for perceived authority domains, 2) some kind of adjustment to the freshness algorithm and 3) a drop in authority for sites that had used the disavow tool extensively.

None of this has been confirmed, but here are a few examples of the kind of thing we have been seeing:

Authority sites

In the legal sector we saw huge gains for high authority websites like advice guide and the law society. However, when I search ‘injury claims’ am I really looking to read a long piece of boring text? Or do I actually want to make a claim?

Injury claims serps

Let’s presume I want to make a claim, if so 3 of the top 5 results are fairly useless. Let’s hope Google’s return to search algorithm deals with this.


Now, you may have seen an increase in high authority newspapers ranking for what seem like irrelevant queries:

Buy a coat serps

When looking to buy a coat I always run straight to the daily mail and telegraph…

However, it’s not just news sites that seem to have had a boost, it’s also any pages that are displaying dates, check this supplement result out:

ds craze serp

The site in 5th has a date in the snippet, this actually relates to a review that has the date within a h tag. Close monitoring of product pages on this site seems to show some correlation between a new review being left, and a temporary boost in rankings. It also seems to be more prominent since the last penguin update.

Disavowed Links

We probably have more experience than any other agency using the disavow tool, and in preparation for Penguin we audited all client links and disavowed any that weren’t 100% natural. In most cases this meant we had very few issues after the update, in fact we saw some great results. However, there were one or two which left us puzzled.

I disavowed over 1200 domains to SEOwizz (dodgy article directories from 2008), all I have left is 300 – 400 domains still linking, all from great websites (including the great and powerful moz and even Google themselves). I disavowed them nearly 5 months ago with no impact on traffic or visibility.

SEOwizz searchmetrics

Then penguin hits, my site loses all visibility and traffic drops from 3000 – 1800 a week… thankfully I don’t rely on the site commercially.

….and this isn’t a one off, we have seen this trend on 4 – 5 different sites who all disavowed links anticipating penguin.

Cyrus published his thoughts on this over on SEOmoz (now moz :) ) last week, he disavowed all his links as a test, nothing happened (the disavow tool doesn’t work right?), then penguin hit and it died!

cyrus searchmetrics

So as you can see, there are still a lot of question marks around the most recent update, please, if you have any insight leave it below or drop me a line. Also, if anyone has recovered when Penguin rolled out please share :)

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Author: Tim (257 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.



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